Anyone that loves Dixieland Jazz knows the name of Leon Bismark (Bix) Beiderbecke and now jazz enthusiasts and those that love history and music have reason to celebrate. The Bix Beiderbecke Museum opens Friday July 24th! The museum is located in the basement of the River Music Experience also known as the Redstone Building.
Today, my daughter Allie and I had the privilege of a preview tour of this long-awaited museum and learning the history of a music icon.
JessicaWaytenick with the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau set up a tour led by Howard Braren, President of the Board for the new museum. Howard besides being a fan, is also a shirt tail relative of Bix’s. Museum designer Joe Hines also showed us some of the highlights of this 1500 square foot museum that houses pictures, musical instruments and places you back in the life and times of Bix and the roaring 20’s when he made his name in the jazz world. “We’ve been working on this now for almost 15 years”, Jessica explained.
Born in 1903 to a prominent German family from Davenport, Bix’s grandparents had grocery stores and Howard said, “They served the whole area. The residence that they (his grandparents) built is still in Davenport on W. 7th Street.”
Today it is a bed and breakfast. Bix Beiderbecke was one of the most prominent jazz musicians of the 1920’s. Especially famous for his talent on the coronet, this self-taught musician also played the piano, and the only piano he ever bought or owned is on display in the museum. This is the piano he had in his Queens, New York apartment in the final days before he died basically from Prohibition liquor. A heavy drinker like many of his day in the Roaring 20’s, his life was cut short and he died at the young age of 28, leaving behind a jazz legacy.
Howard said the piano was found through the efforts of Dr. Albert Haim who searched for the piano for a year. “It wound up in Suffolk Long Island in a home where two daughters were taking lessons.”
Two months after locating the piano, Dr. Haim had it for the museum. The museum opens just in time for the upcoming 46th annual Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival which opens August 3-5, 2017. Thousands from all over the world come to see the city of the mucisian’s birth, his boyhood home and where he is buried in Oakdale Memorial Gardens. Now there is a new site to see and visit!
For more information about this amazing new addition to the Quad Cities, look on the www.bixmuseum.org website.